Folk Melodies. Twelve Easy Pieces for Piano
From as early as in the 1930s Lutosławski
experimented with using folk melodies in his own music. At that time he began
working on his Kurpie Suite, which may have been inspired by
Szymanowski’s and Bartók’s folkloristic works. The composition drafts burned in
the Warsaw Uprising period, and the would-be author of the Suite did not
return to folk material until 1946. The reason was not so much a desire to
return to his pre-war plans, but a desire to take part in the post-war
rebuilding of Polish musical life.
There was a huge demand in the musical-education system that had been destroyed during the occupation for new music composed for educational purposes. Well aware of this, Lutosławski wrote pieces for young performers. He used simple folk tunes in them, adding to these a more complex, “spicy” accompaniment. The approach resembled Szymanowski’s and Bartók’s techniques in general, but in its particulars it was Lutosławski’s own invention. This method of working allowed him to compose relatively easily music that was both accessible and sophisticated.
The first of the folk pieces he completed were Folk Melodies for piano. The composer scored some of them for string orchestra; there is also a version he wrote for four violins. The Melodies were soon joined by the Carols, Bucolics, Little Suite and Silesian Triptych. The series was crowned, as it turned out, by the Concerto for Orchestra from 1954 – much larger and more complex than the other compositions, and one of the most important works in the composer’s oeuvre.